Some time ago, the barefoot running movement started, claiming that it is more natural and reduces chronic pain. Has there been some research on it since then?

A lot of people claim that it helped them, but it may be confirmation bias (only those with good experiences wrote about it, the others thought they had bad technique or there is something wrong with their feet or they started too quickly...)


3 Answers 3


The answer, basically, is yes. Though "healthier" is not a claim that is testable, there is a great deal of research on barefoot running that shows that if you run barefoot you will be injured less, and that there are other benefits.

Research papers on barefoot running include:

  • "Running Related Injury Prevention Through Barefoot Adaptations" by Steven E. Robbins and Adel M. Hanna of the Human Performance Group at Concordia University in Montréal, Québec found "an extremely low rate of running-related injury in barefoot populations", and concludes that the "modern running shoe appears responsible for the high injury frequency associated with running". This article was published by The American College of Sports Medicine's official journal, "Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise".

  • Another study, published in the "International Journal of Sport Medicine" titled "Mechanical Comparison of Barefoot and Shod Running" done by a group of scientists at the University of Saint-Etienne, France and the Department of Preventive and Rehabilitative Sports Medicine, University of Freiburg, Germany suggests that there is greater muscle activation throughout the body when running barefoot, and that the impact of each step is lesser.

  • "Barefoot Running" which was presented at the 3rd International Sports Science Days in 2004 by Michael Warburton, and summarized the state of the research on the effects barefoot running:

    • Running in shoes appears to increase the risk of ankle sprains, either by decreasing awareness of foot position or by increasing the twisting torque on the ankle during a stumble.

    • Running in shoes appears to increase the risk of plantar fasciitis and other chronic injuries of the lower limb by modifying the transfer of shock to muscles and supporting structures.

    • Running in bare feet reduces oxygen consumption by a few percent. Competitive running performance should therefore improve by a similar amount, but there has been no published research comparing the effect of barefoot and shod running on simulated or real competitive running performance.

    • Research is needed to establish why runners choose not to run barefoot. Concern about puncture wounds, bruising, thermal injury, and overuse injury during the adaptation period are possibilities.

    • Running shoes play an important protective role on some courses, in extreme weather conditions, and with certain pathologies of the lower limb.

  • 2
    All this seems to ignore the obvious drawback that you don't know what you're going to step on!
    – komodosp
    Jul 12, 2020 at 8:40

More research has been conducted on the topic since 2011, and the answer should now be revised from yes, to requires more evidence.

From The Skeptic's Guide to Sports Science: Confronting Myths of the Health and Fitness Industry by Nicholas B. Tiller (Routledge; April 15, 2020):

The most recent studies in this domain bring into question the purported benefits of minimalist running shoes in mimicking habitual barefoot running. Moreover, a 2017 review of 15 studies on 1,899 total participants observed no difference in relative injury rates between people who run habitually barefoot compared to those who run habitually shod, and no evidence.


To summarize, the premise of barefoot running is logical and the early (preliminary) evidence promising; however, the marketing campaign hinges on several logical fallacies and, more pertinently, the long-term evaluations from systematic reviews suggest little-to-no difference in injury risk and/or performance with minimalist versus contemporary shoes. Until convincing research is published to the contrary, we should be very cautious in actively promoting barefoot running as a replacement modern trainers.

From the Orthopaedic Perspective on Barefoot and Minimalist Running review, 2016:

despite the large gap of evidence-based knowledge on minimalist running, the potential benefits warrant further research and consideration.

And from the The Risks and Benefits of Running Barefoot or in Minimalist Shoes review, 2014:

Because of lack of high-quality evidence, no definitive conclusions can be drawn regarding specific risks or benefits to running barefoot, shod, or in minimalist shoes.

There's also a new paper from 2019, Running Ground Reaction Forces Across Footwear Conditions Are Predicted From the Motion of Two Body Mass Components, that provides a new perspective on Lieberman's original results and puts into question some of the benefits of barefoot running.


Yes. Basically when you run in barefeet you land more carefully, reducing the risk of injury (here is a video by the author of that paper, Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman).


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